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Tuesday, 6 June, 2000, 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK
Japan cult member gets life
Yoshihiro Inoue
Inoue also took part in several other murders
A key member of Japan's doomsday cult has been sentenced to life in prison for his role in the fatal 1995 Tokyo underground gas attack.

Yoshihiro Inoue, 30, was one of five Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth) agents accused of being directly involved in the gassing, which killed 12 people and left thousands of rush hour commuters ill.

Inoue had pleaded guilty to all 10 charges, which included murder and other crimes.

1995 gas attack
The gas was released during Tokyo's morning rush hour
But the judge in the Tokyo court rejected a prosecution demand for the death sentence, ruling that Inoue did not actually release the poisonous sarin nerve gas, Kyodo news agency said.

Inoue was also convicted of taking part in the murder of a former Aum member in January 1994, of helping to murder an Osaka company employee in December of that year and of kidnapping and killing the brother of a former cult member in February 1995, Kyodo said.

Revival

One of Aum's longest-serving members, Inoue joined the cult when he was 16.

Yoshihiro Inoue with Aum leader Shoko Asahara
Was Inoue (right) "brainwashed" by cult leader Asahara?
Defence lawyers argued it would have been difficult for him to counter commands from other senior cult members, but the judge said Inoue was fully aware of what he had done.

Inoue was the cult's top intelligence officer and a close aide to Aum founder Shoko Asahara, who is currently on trial for masterminding the attack and other crimes.

In September, the court sentenced Masato Yokoyama, 35, to hang for his involvement in the attack.

Three other cult members who participated in the gassing have been given life in prison, and five other cult members are awaiting sentencing. In all, 14 cult members have been indicted in the case.

Aum - which now calls itself Aleph - has apologised for the attack and promised to compensate victims.

But public sentiment runs strongly against the cult, which in recent years has shown signs of a revival.

Last month, police found instructions for making nerve gas in a car owned by the cult, and officials suspect the group may have been planning to resume production of the poison.

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See also:

26 Dec 98 | Asia-Pacific
Doomsday cult revival
23 Oct 98 | Asia-Pacific
Doomsday cultist sentenced to death
01 Oct 98 | World
Sarin uncovered
26 May 98 | Asia-Pacific
Life sentence for Japan's 'Dr Death'
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